Actress and presenter Lynda Bellingham died yesterday in her husband Michael’s arms, her agent has said.
The 66-year-old star, best known for her long-running role as a mother in the Oxo TV adverts, had been battling colon cancer, which later spread to her lungs and liver, since being diagnosed in July last year.
The actress said she decided to end her treatment on August 13 to limit the amount of suffering her family would witness.
In a statement on behalf of Bellingham’s family, her agent, Sue Latimer, said: “Lynda died peacefully in her husband’s arms yesterday evening at a London hospital. Her family, to whom she was devoted, would like to thank the nurses and staff for their tremendous care and support.
“As an actor, writer and presenter, Lynda was a consummate professional to the very end.
“Those of us privileged to have known her personally will miss the entertaining, life enhancing, true and honest friend that blessed our lives.”
Bellingham’s decision to end her treatment was revealed in a newspaper serialisation of her forthcoming autobiography.
She had said she would like to see one last Christmas.
Bellingham said: “The decision to give up chemo was a huge relief because I took back some control of myself. It’s there on the table if I want it.
“I don’t want the boys or my husband to see me die a little sad old lady. I want to go out there as I am.”
She said she wanted her autobiography to be “uplifting”, adding: “I wrote the book for everybody out there.
“It’s not supposed to be an embarrassing account of me having terminal cancer.
“I wanted to write it for everybody who is given that curveball and say of course there are no answers but, if you can, take it and make it positive and talk about dying.
“If two people read this book and think ‘Actually, that’s how I feel and I’m not on my own’, then I’ll have done something half decent.”
Bellingham, who took part in the 2009 series of Strictly Come Dancing, was also a panellist on ITV show Loose Women in recent years.
She filmed a special farewell episode of the ITV show, which is yet to air, in which she received a standing ovation.
She also presented a number of other programmes, following an acting career which saw her star in dramas such as At Home With The Braithwaites and The Bill.
Stars paid tribute to Bellingham on Twitter.
Actor Simon Pegg, who starred with the actress in 1990s TV show Faith In The Future, said: “Lynda Bellingham, a gorgeous, brassy, funny, generous, talented human being. My first TV mother figure and a treasured friend.”
Actress and presenter Amanda Holden wrote: “So devastated to hear the news about the beautiful Lynda Bellingham.”
Kirstie Allsopp said: “Lynda Bellingham, she was an inspiration, she so wanted to make it to Christmas, if you’re working towards that, don’t give up hope.
Fellow presenter Ben Shephard said: “So so sad to hear that the gorgeous Lynda Bellingham has passed away. She was just wonderful to be around and will be sorely missed.”
Bellingham’s pre-recorded farewell appearance on Loose Women is due to be screened on Wednesday.
Her death came just 10 days after the publication of her memoir.....
Bellingham was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list for her charity work.
She said at the time that she was “absolutely delighted and proud” to receive the accolade following her cancer diagnosis.
‘’It has been a long and tough year but this award is just a fantastic way to move forward,” she said.
“I feel honoured and inspired and very grateful”.
Her other career highlights include long-running TV series All Creatures Great And Small and starring in the touring stage production of Calendar Girls.
Other acting roles included the sitcoms Faith In The Future and Second Thoughts, which began on BBC Radio 4 in 1988 before transferring to ITV.
The mother-of-two also presented ITV shows Country House Sunday, in which she explored stately homes around the UK, along with food show My Tasty Travels.
She had appeared as the mother in a squabbling family in the Oxo adverts since the 1980s.
Bellingham, whose sister Barbara died from lung cancer, had been a high-profile supporter of Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.
The actress, who was adopted, published a best-selling memoir, Lost And Found, which dealt with her search for her birth mother.
She had also written a novel, Tell Me Tomorrow, which was published last year.
Bellingham married her third husband, property developer Michael Pattemore, on her 60th birthday.
Presenter Kaye Adams, who worked on Loose Women, said Bellingham was “an incredibly courageous person”.
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “She just had such an energy and a dynamism and you were just always pleased to see her and always felt she was pleased to see you, which is a fabulous thing to be able to do.
“She always left you feeling better about life.”
She added: “I think a lot of people will be thinking of her so fondly this morning and thinking, God, Lynda, you are incredible.”
Bellingham was asked recently how she would like to be remembered and said she wanted to be thought of as an honest person.
Adams said: “That’s one of the many ways that she will be remembered. Honest, generous, kind, courageous, intelligent, thoughtful, all of those things.”
Fitness guru Diana Moran - also known as the Green Goddess - described Bellingham as the “ultimate professional”.
She told BBC News: “She was a lovely, lovely woman altogether. She’d experienced a lot in life.
“She had her priorities right and I admired her enormously.”
Bellingham’s Loose Women co-presenter Nadia Sawalha, who also appeared with the actress in the Oxo adverts, paid tribute to a “brilliant actress.”
She told ITV show Lorraine: “We’re just all heartbroken because her real, her last wish was that she would spend this Christmas with her family.
“Anyone that knew Lynda and knew her well, knew that she was this absolute live wire. She would come into a room and light the place up. Everybody loved her.
“She got me my first ever job on the Oxo ads... I played her son’s girlfriend in it and then we worked together on (TV series) Second Thoughts. She played my sister’s mum.
“And we all absolutely adored her because she was, in that true sense of the word, the actress. She loved it, she had none of that pretending that she didn’t. She’d go, ‘Darling, the adoration, I adore it! The audience!’ That was really her, she had no shame with that.
“She was a brilliant actress and she moved me to tears many times. She will be so, so sorely missed by so many of us.”
She said that Bellingham told her fellow Loose Women panellists: “’Please when I’m gone, have a big party for me and have a dance’ and that’s Lynda though and through.”
Loose Women issued a statement on its Twitter feed, saying: “Our thoughts go to #lyndabellingham’s family at this incredibly sad time and to all those whose lives she touched so deeply, as she did ours.”
Belllingham’s co-star from All Creatures Great And Small Christopher Timothy said: “She was a life-force. She was funny, she was loyal, she was talented, that’s without doubt. She was a great mum, she was a real friend and on-set she was ‘one of the boys’ really.
“She was naughty and funny. We’ve all been expecting it but it’s so unjust that she didn’t make her last Christmas as was her intention.”
He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s extraordinary... because her honesty and her up-frontness was exactly what one knew and exactly what one expected, but it made it more painful.
“It’s this thing where people state things as they are rather than trying to colour it in any way, it’s so much more moving and painful.”